I'm totally, almost uncontrollably addicted to the various permutations of The Real World (especially the bullsh-t "challenges"), but I think the flagship show was much more interesting before MTV started micromanaging the lives of its "seven strangers" by forcing them to show up at seemingly fake jobs. The first season was engaging because these kids had little else to do but sit in their loft and get to know one another (read: fight); in subsequent seasons, the cast members have seemingly gotten younger and brattier, and are far more willing to play their assigned roles in MTV's obviously pre-fabbed conflict. You see where the producers might think they need faux-employment as a structuring strategy - too bad it invariably bores.

Anyway: this season, the fame whores roommates are living in Austin. Their assignment? Make a documentary film about the SXSW Film, Music and Interactive Festival. Matt Dentler, the director of the film festival, has blogged some interesting insights. "[I]t may be the latest testament to the mainstream power of nonfiction storytelling," he writes, "But, more than all that, the idea that the show's target demographic will be exposed to the idea that "making documentaries is something cool," shows how much things have changed in pop culture." But even assuming the roommates ditch the usual theatrics long enough to cobble together a half-way competant finished product, will their thumbs-up to doc-making end up being a good thing? I think we had this hypothetical moment about ten years ago, and it was called Reality Bites.